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Estonian Hound

This is a fairly young breed from Estonia, where it was created through matings between a variety of imported hounds and local hunting crossdogs. The early incarnation of the Estonian Hound was primarily based on the crosses between the English Foxhound, Russian Hound and the Polish Hound, but after 1934 these working dogs were banned from being used for hunting purposes because they were taller than 17 inches, which was the maximum height allowed by the new law at the time, since it was thought that the years of using larger dogs for hunting was partly to blame for the rapid decline of wildlife in Estonian forests. In an effort to meet the new height requirements, the hunting enthusiasts in Estonia decided to establish a smaller breed of dog, in whose creation a number of hounds was used, mainly Luzerner Laufhunds, Beagles, Bernese Hounds, Swiss Hounds, Daschunds and Russian-Polish Hounds, as well as suitable local crossdogs. The selection and breeding aimed at the development of the new Estonian Hound lasted for over a decade, but there was little uniformity in breed type until the Soviet Union's Ministry of Agriculture and Economy ordered the establishment of recognizable local dog breeds for every Soviet Republic in 1947. Prompted by this ultimatum, hunters in Estonia decided to reinforce the Beagle, Swiss Hound and Luzerner Laufhund traits, while breeding out the influence of the other parent breeds initially used in the Gontchaja Estonskaja programme. Another decade had passed and a recognizable breed type was established, with the Estonian Hound Standard receiving official approval in the late 1954 from the Soviet authorities. The breed enjoyed moderate popularity in Estonia and a few other republics of the Soviet Union, but was fairly unknown elsewhere until the collapse of the USSR and Estonia's proclamation of independence, when the new government recognized the Estonian Hound as a national dog and its Standard was accepted by the Estonian Kennel Club in 1998, ensuring the survival and promotion of this rugged hunter within and outside of its native borders.

The Estonian Hound is a very agile and driven breed, reasonably easy to train and handle, making an amenable companion and children's playmate, but is best suited for a working life. A well-bred Gontchaja Estonskaja has a stable nervous system and an even temperament, although some examples mature late and can be overly rambuctious for inexperienced owners. While not overly aggressive, the breed is naturally suspicious of strangers and is quite territorial, making it a capable watchdog. It is muscular and strong, with a deep and wide chest, a straight back and sturdy legs. The skin is elastic, but fairly tight, without any wrinkles. The head is round and elegant, with a subtle stop and strong muzzle. The drop ears are long and set low on the head, remaining close to the cheeks.

The short coat is hard and flat, coming in white colour with black, tan or yellow markings of varying sizes, always having a white tip of the tail. Average height is around 19 inches.

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